What’s your new hobby? What’s the skill you’ve been working on during quarantine? The nature of a University student is not to watch this kind of time go by without learning something new. Not to say that you have to, but I’m sure we’d all go crazy if we didn’t.
I’ve been knitting, or at least trying to. I think I’m making a scarf, poncho or shawl — I’m not really sure yet but it’s something. All I really know is that I’m doing one knit stitch followed by one purl stitch, over and over until I’m satisfied. I’m using a lovely, cushy, soft-crushed velvet. It’s pink, fuschia and purple all at the same time. I love looking at it.
I’ve also been painting. I paint with watercolors because that’s what I had in my childhood bedroom. I paint flowers, sunsets, plants — anything I see that I think is beautiful. Sometimes I’ll paint along with Bob Ross. It makes me feel calm and creative.
I’m not saying I’m really good at either of these things — at least, not traditionally good. Maybe I’m creating some new art form. Maybe in a year we’ll all be lusting after crushed velvet scarves with seemingly random dropped stitches and loops. Maybe someone will think that my messy interpretations of flowers are inspired, and they’ll be hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art — probably not, but it could happen.
An old friend of mine is a professional ballet dancer with a company in New York City. When the quarantine started, he told me he was scared. He was scared about dance as a career, and the uncertainty that it brings. He was scared about the longevity of the art — would patrons have money to attend the ballet after this is over? In turn that made me scared — to see someone so talented and passionate be so unsure of their aspirations.
He’s been doing studio classes online for a few weeks now. Obviously, he’s still afraid of what could happen in his career, but he’s living more in the moment. He downloaded TikTok and has been sharing his choreography — he already has over 1,000 followers. He’s been exploring ways of making dance more accessible, with the goal of inspiring a next generation of dancers. This is all awesome, but at the end of the day, I think it’s most important that he’s been filling his time with creativity.
“Wasn’t the Plague the reason the Renaissance happened?” he had asked me over FaceTime. It was in that conversation when I realized how exciting this time really is. I think Andrew is right. I think when all of this is over, there will be a bursting, vivacious, artistic, celebratory movement of creativity.
Since that conversation, I’ve been noticing the ways in which art is changing and adapting. Although I don’t have an account myself, TikTok seems to be making dance accessible by showing off people’s simple dance moves and allowing everyone to learn and practice in their own homes. Visual artists on Instagram are producing tutorials. Musicians are spreading encouraging messages through song. Art is everywhere.
I want to be a part of this Renaissance and all of the good vibes it’s creating. It doesn’t matter that I’m not “good” at painting — I’m going to paint. Not only am I going to paint, I’m going to share my paintings on social media to encourage others to be creative. It’s not about being perfect or impressive — it’s about just being.
I’ve been reading poetry by James Wright for one of my classes. I’m a writer who grew up in a rural area surrounded by boring things. I always longed for excitement and thought I needed to be somewhere metropolitan to make interesting art. Yet James Wright was a working class Appalachian poet, and he made beautiful poems out of the things that surround me every day — I found them really inspiring.
My point is that art is important, and it enriches our experience of life. Especially during this time, when we all have the chance to try new things, we should take the opportunity to express ourselves however we want. Share what you make in the hope that it’ll make someone smile. Tell those who share if their work made you smile. Find beauty in the things around you and do something with it — there’s no doubt it’ll make social distancing that much more fulfilling.
Riley Creamer is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.